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From Criminalizing to Decriminalizing Marijuana: The Politics of Social Control, Nikolay Anguelov

Reviewed by Daniel J. Mallinson

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As marijuana liberalization progresses in the United States, criminalization’s historical context must not be ignored. Scholars have begun to understand the spread of recent marijuana liberalization, but their work is not always grounded in the historical context of drug control. Nikolay Anguelov’s book From Criminalizing to Decriminalizing Marijuana does this by situating recent advancements in marijuana liberalization within the historical arc of U.S. drug control policy.

While research on the politics of marijuana liberalization has been picking up, Anguelov reminds us of the origins of criminalization and how it is tied to liberalization. Central to his argument is the aspect of social control in drug policy. Drugs were often criminalized to protect the white majority from undesirable “others.” From Asian migration and the denigration of “opium dens,” to banning Mexican marijuana, to Richard Nixon’s racially and electorally motivated war on drugs, race has played a powerful role in American drug policy. This history is vital to consider as we study liberalization efforts. It also helps inform our understanding of the social justice concerns that are surfacing with full legalization and were less salient with narrower medical marijuana programs.

The first three chapters provide the historical cont

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